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Members of the WPI community filled Olin Hall last Thursday for a guest lecture that was recognized as having one of the best turnouts in the last decade at WPI. Gale Dines, a feminist and anti-pornography activist, presented an intriguing talk on the effects of pornography and latest pop-culture tendencies on relationships. Dines, who received her education at the Univeristy of Salford, UK and is currently a professor at Wheelock College, has been researching the field for over two decades, and she recently published the international best seller PornLand: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.
Dines began the lecture by claiming that the current college student generation is the “experimental generation” because their lives revolve around images as opposed to printed word, and yet they are image-illiterate. She continued to add that all images are produced with a goal in mind, and in today’s media, images with the sexiest and raciest themes pervade. TV programs, music videos, fashion and sports magazines, and video games portray highly sexualized images often involving young, tall, thin, light and blonde females. Women are made to appear sexually available, seductive and willing, much like sex objects, being reduced of all human value. This migration of soft-core pornography into the realm of pop-culture has forced the long-existing porn industry to turn to hardcore material in order to survive.
Pornography is now more brutal and degrading to women than ever before, and the internet provides an anonymous, free and readily available medium for exposure to it. Considering that the dominant audience of porn is composed of males, Dines asserted that men are impacted by this industry just as much as women are, beginning at the age of 11, which is the average age when young men first access pornographic material.
Porn has changed the way men think about sexuality and how they behave in their own intimate relationships. They become bored with their own partners, desensitized to sexual experiences and constantly needing more and more to keep their interest “in the moment,” which is an issue that thousands of couples express nowadays. This need for more has been regularly supplied by the porn industry, with a tremendous increase of hardcore material over the last decade: more brutal, body-punishing videos and images at the expense of women.
Dines explored the porn industry to find that there are two main types of products. The first is features: videos which contain a plot behind the sexual scenes, adopted from Hollywood movies. She claimed that exposure to this genre of porn alters the expectations of men for their partner’s behavior and looks. It also teaches a man to use the woman’s body as he likes and to assume that she will love it too. On the other hand, it teaches a woman that sex requires performance: acting like she enjoys it, and that she needs to look good while doing so.
Dines stated that the second genre is the most profitable, the fastest growing and arguably the most disturbing kind, known as Gonzo porn: simply staged and recorded sex without a plot. During these videos women are verbally and physically abused, all while being forced to say that they “like it.” Besides the degrading image they show of women, Dines claimed that this type of porn gives men the message that they should hurt, debase and humiliate women just like the man in the video does, because he is portrayed as sexually successful. On the other hand, it teaches women that they should endure everything in order to make their partners happy.
Dines contemplated that at this point, everything short of killing has been done to the woman’s body in the videos, and points out that even directors in the porn industry have expressed concern as to where to go next to keep up with the desensitizing and the desire for more.
A concerning aspect is the fact that women go into the industry not aware of what they are getting into. Dines expressed that most porn actresses come from years of minimal-wage jobs and see porn as a way to financially secure their futures. She pointed out that the average endurance of a female in the porn industry is only three months due to a variety of health issues, the newest of which are infections of the throat from fecal bacteria or anal prolapse.
Dines ended the talk by suggesting that females are not the only ones who are prey of porn, but that men too should be enraged as well, because the industry is forming who they should be. She claimed that with porn, “you will never walk away unchanged.”
She alleged that the multi-billion dollar, capitalist industry creeps into all relationships, hijacking and shaping the sexuality of men and women and that it is time to do something about it. Dines has founded the Stop Porn Culture movement to support the need for collective responsibility on these issues.